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Bearing the brunt of government cuts

Published Monday, 19 November 2018

The Council is setting out its pre-budget proposals, which it hopes will mean a balanced budget for the city in 2019/20.

However, the bigger picture for 2020/21 is looking much more uncertain for the local authority. In fact, the fiscal problems facing Coventry the year after next is already looking like a £17m funding gap.

Cllr John Mutton, Cabinet Member for Strategic Finance and Resources believes that over the past few years robust financial planning has helped the local authority maintain frontline services and continue to support people in more difficult circumstances. Again, this year the local authority will be setting out proposals that will mean a balanced budget, and maintaining services.

Councillor Mutton said that he hoped that councillors would approve, as a basis for consultation, the spending and savings proposals for 2019/20. A pre-budget report will outline proposals to be taken to Cabinet on Tuesday 27 November.

He said: “The Council remains committed to seeking to protect its most vulnerable citizens and to delivering a range of core services to everyone in the city at a time of large reductions in Government funding. 

“We are confident of achieving a balanced budget next year despite the financial pressures that we face. But this is likely to come about only because we have identified new commercial income streams, worked hard at increasing our tax revenues, and because of technical measures we have introduced like trimming our contingency budgets.”

He added: “I have big concerns for future years. We still need the government to set out a fairer, long term solution to council funding. We are counting down to a point in the coming years when we may have to stop some of the services we provide. I did not come into politics to cut services.”

The Council is hoping to agree on an overall Council Tax increase for 2019/20 of 2.9 per cent as allowed for within Government guidelines. For the majority of Coventry households this will mean an annual increase of £36 – the equivalent of 70p per week. 

The final Budget proposals and any Council Tax increase will be subject to Council approval in February.

The problem that the Council is facing in 2020/21 is that the projected financial gap will rise to £17m mainly because of uncertainty around the Local Government finance environment, greater external pressures in some of its demand led services, and continued inflationary pressures.

Cllr Mutton added: “We have identified a number of new savings proposals within service departments to be included in this report as a basis for consultation. These proposals would reduce the current budget gap for 2019/20 from £10m to £0.6m, so we are confident of achieving our target of a balanced budget.”

Further work will be undertaken to address the 2019/20 gap outlined in the report between now and the final Budget Report in February. This will include consideration of the additional resources announced for social care as part of the Chancellor’s Budget announced on October 29.

How the Council is proposing to balance its 2019/20 budget.

The Council continues to face pressures from supporting families and individuals in temporary and supported accommodation with additional costs of £2.9m being funded in 2018/19.

That’s why there is such an urgency to find long term housing solutions that reduce the need for, and the cost of, temporary bed and breakfast accommodation.

To balance the budget the council is securing additional income in areas such as commercial waste, planning fees and additional property rents.

It also includes dividends generated from the Council’s investment in Coombe Abbey Hotel.

Just some of proposals that the Council will be consulting on include:

  • generating income from domestic recycling and pest control services across other local authority districts; 
  • charging to park at the War Memorial Park for the Godiva Festival;
  • purchasing an Automatic Number Plate Recognition car to capture offences (parking on school zig-zags, red lines, taxi ranks) and assist with enforcement issues.

At the same time the council is investing in the regeneration and the growth of the city. Examples include:

  • The Council’s prospective Capital Programme includes a strategic transportation programme of over £100m and up to £85m of other economic regeneration and infrastructure works including the National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility;
  • City Centre Destination Leisure Facility (The Wave Water Park);
  • the 50m pool at the Higgs Centre;
  • a new Indoor Bowls facility;
  • and the Salt Lane multi-storey car park.

Approval is also sought to undertake a public consultation process through 2019 relating to the Council’s grant support to external organisations.

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